Big Pot & The Race for the ‘Biggest Marijuana Grow’
New Mexico is the latest state to announce that it will play host to the biggest legal cannabis grow operation in the United States. But other claims to that title over the past years have still not panned out, and a facility in Arizona now occupies the number one slot. Meanwhile, as various U.S. states vie for the honor, Canada is far in the lead of its southern neighbor.
New Mexico’s largest cannabis producer last week announced plans for a massive expansion, boasting that it would make the Land of Enchantment the top-producing state in the country and earn the distinction of biggest marijuana grow.
Ultra Health, the state’s top-grossing medical marijuana company, hopes to open its new cultivation site, Ultra Health Tularosa, on 200 acres of agricultural lands in Otero County, according to Albuquerque Business First. The new site is slated to include 20 acres of indoor cultivation, 80 acres of outdoor cannabis fields, 100 acres of outdoor industrial hemp fields and 120,000 square feet of production buildings.
Ultra Health said its mission is to “supply New Mexico with a diverse variety of high-quality cannabis that satisfies each and every client and propels the Land of Enchantment to unprecedented heights.”
As New Mexico is one of the states with the lowest median income, you can imagine that many citizens view this as welcome news.
However, this plan for the biggest marijuana grow is all predicated on the state’s gubernatorial hopeful Jeff Apodaca winning office in November, and then being able to implement his plan to legalize cannabis in New Mexico. He’s running on a platform of boosting the legal cannabis economy as a means to lift the state out of poverty.
There is a certain sense of poetry to Apodaca’s ambition. As Albuquerque’s KOB4 reports, Apodaca’s father was the governor who signed the legislation in 1978 that made New Mexico the first of several states to allow participation in the (now moribund) DEA-permitted medical marijuana program. This was a wave of legislation nearly 20 years before California’s Proposition 215 and largely forgotten today, with the DEA program frozen.
New Mexico got its own medical marijuana program (not recognized by the feds, of course) in 2007. A general legalization bill is currently pending in the state house, and cleared the Senate Rules Committee in February. While this is encouraging news, there is still a sense that Ultra Health is gambling that the legalization wave will reach New Mexico.
Meanwhile, there is also a sense of déjà vu to all this. We’ve heard claims to the title of biggest marijuana grow and top cannabis-producing state before.
The new plans are certainly far more ambitious than those announced as record-breaking over a year ago — a testament to soaring hopes for the legal cannabis industry’s future. It remains to be seen if they will be more realistic.
In December 2016, AmeriCann of Denver announced plans to develop the country’s biggest marijuana grow, for the medical market, in Freetown, Massachusetts, some 50 miles south of Boston. At one million square feet, the Massachusetts Medical Cannabis Center was planned to be “the place in the northeast U.S. for the creation of a wide variety of exciting new advanced products for medical cannabis patients,” said AmeriCann CEO Tim Keogh. The project was to initially include a 130,000-square-foot cultivation and processing area, and a 30,000-square-foot research and development site. Even if it expanded to the anticipated million square feet, that would still be only a tenth the size of the anticipated New Mexico facility.
And with the 2016 announcement, Keogh said the facility was projected to be operational by the end of the next year. But a report this week still calls the facility “highly anticipated.”
At the time of the AmeriCann announcement, it was said that the Freetown facility would supersede that under construction by GFarmaLabs in Desert Hot Springs, California — until then the largest marijuana grow in the country, at 100,000 square feet.
Finally, if we are to judge the biggest in North America, the prize goes not to any U.S. state, but to a Canadian province, according to cannabis industry trade website Growers Network. They give the place of honor to Canopy Growth corporation of Smith Falls, Ontario, with 568,000 square feet. The runner-ups are 7 Acres of Kincardine, Ontario, at 304,920 square feet, and Organigram of Moncton, New Brunswick, at 227,500 square feet.
It isn’t until we reach fourth place for North America that we come to Copperstate Farms in Snowflake, Arizona, with 217,800 square feet. This appears to have beaten AmeriCann to the punch in overtaking the Desert Hot Springs operation.
White Mountain Independent, an Arizona newspaper, reports that Copperstate Farms opened the Snowflake facility last year on the site for the former Nature Sweet Tomato plant. By June of last year, it was hiring to the tune of 10 employees per week.
But Canopy Growth of Ontario, in addition to being far in the lead, is also expanding its operations overseas. And with Canada about to legalize nationwide, its gain over the United States is only set to widen.
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